While it is arguably the most important term in marketing today, entering the word “brand” into a search engine results in many differing definitions. Which is the most accurate and useful definition of brand for business today?
The Oxford English Dictionary defines “brand” (in part) as: a type of product manufactured by a particular company under a particular name; a brand name; a particular identity or image regarded as an asset.
Merriam-Webster’s business definition for “brand” is more limited in scope: a class of goods identified by name as the product of a single firm or manufacturer.
“Although branding was historically a concept that was mainly relevant to commercial undertakings, that has changed,” explains Paul Farris, Landmark Communications Professor of Business Administration at the University of Virginia, Darden School of Business.
“For the last few years, many non-commercial entities – political parties, universities, persons and even churches and countries – now write or speak about the nature and value of their ‘brand.’ Most of these references seem aimed at describing how the entities are or wish to be perceived by their target audiences.”
Looking for an appropriate business orientation, the Common Language Marketing Dictionary featured “brand” as originally defined by the American Marketing Association (AMA): a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.
All of these definitions focus on the physical aspect of brands rather than the intangible characteristics that give brands their value, a critical omission that has been addressed by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).
In consideration of recently issued ISO standards, the Common Language Marketing Dictionary has amended its original definition with the following passage:
ISO brand standards add that a brand “is an intangible asset” that is intended to create “distinctive images and associations in the minds of stakeholders, thereby generating economic benefit/values.”
With significant work on brand valuation and brand evaluation still to come, it’s quite likely that the definition of “brand” will continue to evolve.